Reply to a Letter from Helga MP3 CD – 29 Jan 2013
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About the Author
Bergsveinn Birgisson holds a doctorate in Norse philology and has an expansive background in folklore, oral histories, and lyrical poetry. A true academic at heart, Birgisson has spent his life studying language and how it represents the truth of the human condition. He currently resides in Bergen, Norway, where he continues to write classical tales of love and masters new languages. Reply to a Letter from Helga is Birgisson’s third novel, and his first to be translated into English.
Philip Roughton is an award-winning translator of modern Icelandic literature and a scholar of Old Norse and medieval literature. He holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and has taught literature there and at the University of Iceland. His translations include novelsby the Nobel Prize–winning author Halldór Laxness, among others. He currently resides in Reykjavík, Iceland.
Top Customer Reviews
receives a letter from Helga asking him to leave his farm and wife,
to go with her to live in the city.
He does not reply to this letter until very many years later,at the
end of his life.
Beautifully written with acute observation,this novella (123 pages long),
is not only an expression of love and regret,but a passionate evocation of
one man's atavistic attachment to the land.
The whole setting is rather bleak as its set in rural Iceland amongst a farming community but oddly enough, I had just seen a documentary on Iceland just before reading this book so I could picture the setting fairly well, I suppose it reminded me a little of images of northern Scotland. The book is set in chapters where the main character is almost speaking to Helga describing his feelings and his reasons why he did or did not do certain things. In his old age now its very much him thinking of the past sometimes with regrets sometimes without. The book is rather sexually graphic and at times these parts can get a bit repetitive. I did like how the whole book is written in a very matter of fact kind of way for example how he describes his wifes family as being a bit stingy not wasting anything. (The bit about them possibly mistakenly using urine in bread made me cringe)
All in all this is a good book to read especially one to take with you for the summer or on another holiday. There is nothing too complex to wear you down reading (complex names or places for example other than the characters!)
The wider story of course is iceland during WW2 (when Bjarni and Helga got together) and so one gets to see Iceland modernise and unfold before one's eyes as a suddenly modernising and growing country, in stark contrast to Bjarni's way of life in the rural areas. I really enjoyed this and the constant referencing of Norse legend and history. It builds a lovely, evocative and alive Iceland - Iceland is a character in this book as much as Bjarni and Helga are.
A lovely novella with lovely illustrations too - they remind me of a Finlandsvensk artist I enjoy, so they were a nice addition - not really sure why a novella aimed at adults even has illustrations, but hey ho, they're quite nice in their own way.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This elegiac novella is both a cherishing and a lament for a lost possibility of love set in Iceland's conservative rural countryside, a world that shares much with the Victorian... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Angus Jenkinson
I feel guilty about giving this only four stars. This is rather stingey for rather a wonderful book. Read morePublished 11 months ago by R. Lawson
A bawdy romp telling of one man's sexual fixation with a love interest of his youth. Problem is, he is already married, as is she. Read morePublished 19 months ago by It Was Only A Winter'sTale
I'm sure if it's in its native language this would be an amazing story, I'm sure that if I was Icelandic I'd of got more of the nostalgia but sadly I didn't and I almost broke my... Read morePublished 20 months ago by K. D. Squire
This is a short novel in the form of a letter written by an Icelandic farmer, now an old man nearing the end of his life, to his former lover. Read morePublished 21 months ago by hfffoman
Everything you ever wanted to know about life as an Icelandic sheep farmer during the last century might not sound immediately appealing however this is a compelling story from... Read morePublished on 20 Feb. 2014 by P. M. Ryans
Tried to get into the book but failed miserably.
Maybe it was the characters, maybe the way it was written.
Sorry, did not get on with it.
I really wanted to like this book. It sounded rather whimsical and lovely, and just up my street. Sadly I found it neither whimsical, nor lovely. Read morePublished on 14 Oct. 2013 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
Nominated for an Icelandic literature award Bergsveinn Birgisson Reply to a letter from Helga,traslated into English by English academic Philip Roughton is a love story of quiet... Read morePublished on 16 May 2013 by Jago Wells